Excerpt from Hearing God

Friends Have Shared Understanding 

Jesus calls us friends if we do what he com­mands (Jn 15:14). As God’s friends we always want to be ask­ing God what he is doing and how he wants us to work with him. God’s desires are impor­tant to us. Friends are peo­ple who under­stand one anoth­er, and so as friends of Jesus we obey because we under­stand what God, our inti­mate Friend, is doing. Inti­ma­cy with God grows from and cre­ates fur­ther shared understanding.

Many can­not progress in their rela­tion­ship with God because they focus sole­ly on what they think God might be telling them to do. In these cas­es, the friend­ship aspect of the rela­tion­ship is miss­ing. Things are as they should be when we don’t have to be told what to do.

Because we are God’s cola­bor­ers, our wants and desires are also impor­tant to God and God’s plan for us (1 Cor 3:9 KJV). His intent for us is that we would grow to the point we would do what we want because what we want is part of that shared under­stand­ing with God, our friend.

It’s true that God some­times tells us what to do, but we are not sim­ply in a rela­tion­ship of mas­ter and slave. Paul described him­self as God’s slave, but he did­n’t begin as God’s slave. We are not dri­ven to ser­vant­hood, but drawn to it. We, like Paul, move into com­plete ser­vice as free peo­ple under Some­one who respects our wants and wills and helps us become the per­sons we want to be.

Saints who have been drawn into this friend­ship and sin­gle-focused ser­vice (slav­ery) become some­thing no one has ever seen before. They become true indi­vid­u­als who are unique because God has shaped their hearts and their wills (Prov 3:5 – 6). Their desires match up with God’s desires, and they are empow­ered to do what they and God want. (On the oth­er hand, sin­ners are bor­ing­ly pre­dictable because there is noth­ing unique in what they live for. Peo­ple who are enslaved to their desires are all similar.)

Shared Work for Good

God gives us as his cola­bor­ers the pow­er of cre­ativ­i­ty, and we delight in our cre­ativ­i­ty. That shared under­stand­ing and cre­ative activ­i­ty is spelled out in Gen­e­sis 1:26, where we are giv­en respon­si­bil­i­ties so that we share in car­ry­ing out cre­ative respon­si­bil­i­ties with him: Let us make humankind in our image, accord­ing to our like­ness.” What does that mean? Look at the next few words: and let them have domin­ion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cat­tle, and over all the wild ani­mals of the earth and over every creep­ing thing that creeps upon the earth.” God is try­ing to cre­ate the great­est pos­si­ble good and gives us the respon­si­bil­i­ty to exer­cise domin­ion to do good, using the pow­ers that we have to do good. 

I try to do phys­i­cal labor from time to time. I like to work with brick and mor­tar and to pour con­crete. Even though it’s not very good qual­i­ty work, I have to go back, look at it and enjoy it with­in just a few hours. That is how the domin­ion idea of Gen­e­sis 1:26 is built into us.

And yet even as we exer­cise domin­ion, we are work­ing out the desires of our hearts with­in the bound­aries of the divine con­ver­sa­tion. That con­ver­sa­tion­al rela­tion­ship we car­ry on with God cre­ates our unique life. And that is how God wants things to be.

As we do the work God has laid out for us, we always work with­in the larg­er frame­work of the com­mu­ni­ty and fel­low­ship we are a part of. We do not go off in a cor­ner and do some­thing cre­ative. The domin­ion men­tioned in Gen­e­sis 1:26 is meant to be exer­cised in a com­mu­ni­ty of love, not in indi­vid­ual domin­ion. We find our delight in our friend­ships with oth­er peo­ple, which moves us toward the trini­tar­i­an nature of human com­mu­ni­ty. The Trin­i­ty is the mod­el of life as it is intend­ed to be in human exis­tence, the basis for Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty. We are invit­ed to help heal bro­ken rela­tion­ships and bring them into domin­ion under God. Though the world’s prob­lems will not be solved this side of heav­en, res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lems of the world is meant to be begun now (Col 1:19 – 29).

In this life with God, his pres­ence ban­ish­es our alone­ness and makes real the mean­ing and full pur­pose of human exis­tence. This union with God con­sists chiefly in a con­ver­sa­tion­al rela­tion­ship with God while we are con­sis­tent­ly and deeply engaged as his friend and cola­bor­er in the affairs of the king­dom of the heavens.

Tak­en from Hear­ing God by Dal­las Willard. Copy­right © 2012 by Dal­las Willard. Used by per­mis­sion of Inter­Var­si­ty Press. www​.ivpress​.com

Pho­to by Nsey Bena­jah on Unsplash

Text First Published October 1999 · Last Featured on Renovare.org September 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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